Monday, May 02, 2016

When Anger Takes Over: Mallorca and cycling

Saturday was the Mallorca 312 cycle race, so-called because it involved covering a course of 312 kilometres in length. On an island that is nowhere near this length in any one direction, that meant a fair old amount of road needed to be covered. Covered and closed. In fact, it wasn't a race as such. The term "prueba" explained much: a trial. One that tested the over 4,000 cyclists and tested the patience of many people on the island.

Some municipalities which were affected were more upset than others. Mayors and the Council of Mallorca are now said to be going to get together in order to try and limit the inconvenience caused by various sporting events. They will identify ones of major importance, thus implying that those of lesser importance might have to be ditched.

The argument goes, and it's reasonable, that it is only one day. A problem with this argument, however, is that isn't only one day. Not if another event follows hot on the heels. While Mallorca 312 affected a wider area of the island than this coming weekend's Ironman, there are parts of the island affected by both. Playa de Muro was more or less closed on Saturday. It will be again on Saturday. Access to Alcudia was virtually impossible for some hours on Saturday. Alcudia will be shut next Saturday.

So, one day only for each event, but two days in the course of a seven-day period, to which can be added the inconvenience of the closure of the road into Alcudia's port from Magic all next week. It is understandable if some people get rather hacked off.

Both 312 and Ironman bring in good business. I am well aware of the fact that there are certain businesses which suffer because of Ironman (a Saturday's trading is in effect lost because clients cannot get in to the port area), but in general there is an economic advantage. This shouldn't be under-estimated and nor should the benefit to Alcudia as a sports tourism destination be under-played. There is a lot of good that comes from such events.

But try telling some people this when they will perceive legitimate reasons for being annoyed by the inconvenience, loss of trade and inability to move around freely. There is also, one cannot help but get the sense, an increasing resentment of cycling - one element of Ironman, the reason for Mallorca 312 and the source of so much early-season tourism.

This resentment comes from different sources, one of which is other tourists, such as those who were left with luggage searching for their hotels at the weekend. But most of all it comes from residents. Looking at comments on Spanish newspapers, it was very clear that those defending the Saturday event were in a minority.

Perhaps it is a reflection of social media and the ease with which people can vent their frustrations, but the level of resentment shown towards cyclists in general (the regular tourist type as well as those taking part in the events) has not been like it is now. Saturday may have represented a turning-point. Or it should do. The island's authorities (and many businesses) are treading a thin line between reaping the benefits of cycling and the attitudes of the island residents. Cyclists are increasingly characterised as some form of foreign invasion force. Why should the island shut down just to let foreigners ride their bikes?

How can there be a reconciliation? It's difficult to know. But one fears that the resentment is going to boil over at some point. There is a great deal of irrationality voiced by cycling opponents, just as there is a great deal of obnoxious behaviour by cyclists. The passive actions of the Council of Mallorca and others in issuing advice and recommendations are insufficient. The local authorities have to be aware of this irrationality and this behaviour and take measures to prevent there being ugly incidents and matters getting out of hand.

There is a great deal of good from cycling and from cycling events and others. But there is a downside, a significant one. In a word, it is anger. And anger does no one any good.


Son Fe Mick said...

The cyclists cause would be greatly helped if they abided by the same rules as the rest of Mallorca's road users and showed some understanding for the frustrations they cause.
On my trip from Pollenca to Alcudia yesterday I experienced all the cycling worst traits.
1. Lead cyclist enters roundabout safely while the remaining twenty charge in expecting everybody to avoid them.
2. Cycling 2 and 3 abreast in narrow roads.
3. Cycling the wrong way up one way streets, especially the new sea front in Port Pollenca, and expecting drivers get out of way.
AND speaking of Port Pollenca, it has a ring road with a cycling lane AND a slow lane. So where do the majority cycle...yes the main road.
OK i feel better now, back to my morning coffee
Thanks for Son Fe mine info

andrew said...

Mick, you're retired, relax, mate. Ha ha!

I know what you mean though.

And yes, the cyclists going the wrong way in Pto Pollensa and not using the cycle lanes: experienced these myself. No manners, some people.

Sam said...

Seems strange that most of the compliaing is coming from ex pats...typical British mentality towards cyclists.. it borders on discrimination in the UK..yes I will agree there will be some bad apples in any group of people , but on the whole cyclists are nice people who are just enjoying themselves and the vast majority are sensible and considerate just doing what they love. please don't forget that that cyclist is a human being and is someone's son, daughter, mother, father, brother or sister..let's All get on and stay safe..